Real Sex: On Being Bold and Breaking Taboos
Originally posted on HuffPost Impact
When Jessica Biel and I first started talking about the “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will” campaign, it hit us early on that we wanted to encourage real women to have real conversations about their bodies. In order to do that, we knew we had to go right at it and attack the stigma surrounding women’s health. We evaluated several pathways to position us directly at the taboos, but ultimately, we went with bold humor because we felt like it was truly the best way to reach a wider audience.
As we shot the series, we realized within our own creative bubble that humor is clearly subjective. Would everyone think that it was funny to talk about anal sex or to show teenage girls pregnant and uneducated? Would they understand that we were doing this specifically for the purpose of emphasizing the deeper message about the importance of getting education from the right resources? Though sometimes the lines were murky, it became evident to all of us that the use of humor had provided us an effective way to disarm and to engage–to drop our defenses and to sneak into awkwardness and push against it. As I’ve said before, being a woman is serious business in today’s day and age. So, we enthusiastically embraced the humor angle as a way to gain entry into people’s embarrassment and discomfort.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were risks of communicating our serious message through this tactic. As strange as it may sound, we actually targeted the uncomfortable – we wanted to grab it, acknowledge it and then move right past it. Not to prove how clever we are, but to say that it is OK to have conversations about what is going on in our bodies. We truly and deeply mean it when we say that no topic is off limits.
We believe that we are better learners through humor and laughter makes us more receptive to new ideas. As acclaimed sex therapist Dr. Ruth notes, “…a lesson taught with humor, is a lesson retained.”
Though the naysayers weighed in our minds briefly, we knew that taboo topics were necessary to challenge us to think about how to communicate. The truth is however “taboo,” many teenage girls across the country ARE sexually active, and MANY of them ARE having unplanned pregnancies. The reliable resources that exist aren’t reaching them effectively, and there is an overwhelming amount of misinformation dictating decisions that will shape the rest of their lives.
We can say the words “we need to break down taboos” and a lot of people know that and agree, but the boldness of our videos is how we put action to those words. People see what it looks like to unabashedly tackle a topic like birth control. The conversations begin to eliminate the hiding places and the shame.
So ultimately it became resoundingly clear to all of us, that when it came to this next set of our videos, the essence of our campaign was truer than ever–whether it be birth control or the reality of teens being unprepared for the consequences of unprotected sex, if we don’t talk about it, then who will?